A source close to Tung Chee-hwa has denied a report the former chief executive had told central government officials that universal suffrage would be bad for Hong Kong.
The Chinese-language Ming Pao Daily ran a front-page story on Tuesday in which Democratic Party chairwoman Emily Lau Wai-hing was quoted as saying she had been told Tung had advised Beijing that "universal suffrage is wrong and would not be good for Hong Kong".
But a source close to Tung told the South China Morning Post yesterday that the report was groundless.
Lau welcomed the clarification, but said it would be even better if Tung could take a further step and tell Hongkongers that he supported democracy.
"I believe my source - who is from the business sector - is not kidding, but I respect [Tung's clarification]," she said.
"Tung has long been very politically conservative and it would only surprise a few if he really told Beijing something like this."
Lau said she knew some other businessmen had reservations about universal suffrage, as they saw many countries had failed to address their social problems despite implementing "one man, one vote". "I hope the city's business sector will speak up to persuade Beijing to accept democracy," she said.
Tung, now a vice-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference, was Hong Kong's first chief executive after the handover in 1997.
Quoting "health reasons", he resigned in 2005 - three years into his second five-year term - amid widespread dissatisfaction with his rule. Tung has since been helping Beijing cultivate relations with the US through his family's extensive connections with American political and business heavyweights.